In a field less than a mile northwest of Scandia, Minnesota, Jess Shoman from the Chicago-based folk project “Tenci” slowly rides a horse toward the camera. She’s under direction from two guys with Minnesota ties — and no it’s not the Coen brothers — it's Coool.
Coool is a directing duo comprised of Jake Nokovic, a University of Minnesota alum, and John TerEick, a Minnesotan by birth.
Currently based in Chicago, Coool began with Nokovic and TerEick’s friendship, but after a few years of collaboration, the duo decided to put their heads together for the long haul.
“We really started as friends first. I mean, it kind of grew. We were both trying to do the same thing. We have really similar goals, so [we thought,] let’s try to make this an official thing,” Nokovic said.
The duo established Coool as an official LLC in October 2019, kicking off a journey through professional film directing they’ve been cultivating for years.
Thus far, Coool has mainly been working on music videos. They’ve also done promotional videos for Piff MPLS, LaCroix and REI.
TerEick said he’s had an interest in filmmaking since he was little, running around his hometown of Lino Lakes, just north of St. Paul, with a camera in hand. From there, he moved to Chicago to study film at Columbia College.
Nokovic always loved making videos growing up, too, but never saw professional directing as attainable, instead studying psychology and neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. It wasn’t until he began working as a videographer for the Minnesota Daily that he realized maybe professionally directing wasn’t such a pipe dream after all.
“I never went to film school formally, but that was kind of like a mini film school because for two years I was making videos constantly from start to finish,” he said.
While the duo has only been operating under the Coool moniker for the past few months, they’ve been working together for roughly five years now. According to TerEick, co-directing can be hard at times, but they’re figuring it out piece by piece.
“It’s hard because there’s no playbook on how to co-direct,” he said. “I sometimes have a different style than Jake. Jake sometimes has a different style than me. And then we come together, and we make something that’s kind of this weird Frankenstein.”
For Casey Lock, a film producer, director and mentor to the duo, Coool works because they’re more than just two guys sitting in one chair.
“They seem to kind of be like two heads to the same body — very much able to communicate together on everything,” he said.
Although music videos have done them well so far, Nokovic says the duo would like to use Coool as a vehicle — taking them to new places, allowing them to experience the breadth of what the world of filmmaking has to offer.
Right now, they’re looking to break into the world of commercials, establishing a sort of baseline, which down the road could lead to short or even feature-length films.
At the end of the day, it’s not about the money or the prestige, Nokovic said. Like the duo’s namesake, it’s all about one thing.
“We just want to make the coolest stuff that we can. The money is nice, but a really good way to look at money is what you can do with the money to make the best product you can.”
Editor’s note: Jake Nokovic is a former employee of the Minnesota Daily.